Bound to my high school scars

I’m a 48-year-old woman and I still get regular nightmares about having to study for high school or university exams. I’ve been scarred for life.

I can’t imagine that this is how things should be. I’ve heard from several friends that they have similar nightmares. I’m thinking it might be safe to assume that there are lots of people out there who also have these nightmares.

I’d like to blame our educational systems for this. There’s just too much emphasis on test results. In most countries in the world, your entire future depends on the results you get on exams you take when you’re nearing the age of 18. Most 18-year-olds have absolutely no idea what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

When I was 18, I wanted to get into something sciency. (more…)

I Am the Palestinian Mothers

Some people belong to worlds that are small and limited to themselves, their immediate families, their work, and perhaps a few small social circles.

I almost envy people who have such small worlds.

My world is comprised of myself, my immediate family, my extended family, a small number of best friends, a very large number of friends and social media contacts, and then every man, woman, and child living in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.

It is a burdensome world I live in.

Some people are even less fortunate than me. Their worlds are so large that they encompass everyone on planet Earth and beyond. People like that have so much empathy it makes you and me look like unfeeling zombies.

I have been considering all this over the past few days. Why is it that, while I sit safely in my home in the UK, I can feel so down about everything happening in Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, and Syria? When bad things happen there, it is as if they are happening to my own family. No. It’s not “as if”. It is happening to my own family.

A few days ago I attempted to start a small creative writing project. I began writing about a woman who finds herself dead in a dark grave. It takes her awhile to gather her thoughts. Her head hurts. She almost immediately starts to think about her children. She lovingly tells us a bit about each one. And slowly it all comes back to her. In one group of paragraphs the woman is Palestinian, killed at home by an Israeli bomb while she gathered her children under her arms to protect them. In another set of paragraphs she is an Iraqi mother whose children watched in horror while she was raped then battered to death. In a third set of paragraphs the woman is a Syrian mother who died on a smuggler’s boat from hunger and sheer despair after having watched two of her younger children quietly pass into oblivion. I never got as far as writing all those paragraphs. I was physically incapable of getting that far. I put myself in the shoes of the first mother, an Egyptian woman not very different from me, who was shot while sitting in her car by thugs wanting the money in her purse. This is something that actually happened to the sister of a former work colleague of mine. I put myself in that mother’s shoes and felt so much anguish that I could not bear to continue to write. I could not possibly write about the other mothers. I would not have been able to hold myself together.

I’ve been wondering what it was in my upbringing that made me feel so close to other Arabs. (more…)

The Night I Killed a Ghost Child

My earliest memory, beyond false memories that can sometimes be induced whilst looking at old photographs, is from the time when I was four years old.

My father was teaching at the University of Cambridge in England for a year. One night, while I was sleeping, I woke up to the sound of footsteps coming up the staircase. They were slow, purposeful footsteps; the scary kind like in horror movies. They were footsteps that were out to get you. I froze. My back was to the bedroom door and I could not turn around to see who it was. So the thing came to me. It walked into my room, around my bed, and stood right in front of me. It was the apparition of a 40ish woman. She was transparent (as ghosts tend to be). Her hair was held up high on her head in a bun (I can’t remember the birth dates of my own children but I remember that). She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You killed my daughter!”

My heart stopped. I knew exactly what she was talking about. The electricity cut off just as ghost lady was starting up the stairs. As the nightlight went off in my room, and just as my eyes were getting accustomed to the dark, I saw a wisp of little girl disappear underneath my bed. In my head I figured that’s what happened when there is a power cut: little ghost girls die and hide underneath alive girls’ beds.

Once I realized that I had something to do with the death of a ghost child (I still had no real idea how I had anything to do with the power cut) and her mother was standing in front of my bed looking for retribution, I shrieked, “Mooooooommy!” My mother came into my room, sat next to me on my bed, took me into her arms, and asked me what was wrong. I told her what had happened. She chuckled and told me I must have had a bad dream. Mothers! She lit a candle and led me from my room to my parents’ room. I could sleep in their bed until the electricity came back.

I have never stopped wondering what really happened that cold, damp British night some 40 years ago.


Dream Diary: Ghostly Nightmares

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted something in my online dream diary. I ALWAYS dream (almost always they are nightmares) but I haven’t been remembering enough of my dreams to have something coherent to write.

Last night I dreamt something and I actually remember part of that dream because it was so odd. I woke up in the middle of the night, my heart beating rapidly, and when I recalled the dream I thought, “How odd.”

I was walking down a darkened corridor. Light was emanating from the last room on the left. I didn’t want to go into that room because I knew that’s where the dead man lay. But for some reason, a reason my awake self cannot remember, I had to. I timidly looked into the room from the corner of the door. A fancy, dark wood coffin lay on a table. The top half was open to reveal the dead man’s face. It was covered everywhere with long hair. It was the face of a wolfman. His arms protruded from holes in the sides of the coffin, his fingers tapping endlessly on the table.

I rushed out of the room. I was frightened. But as I walked back down the corridor I bumped into Henry the Ghost. Henry was a tall, skinny chap of middle age. He was cheerful and I was pleased to see him. “Where have you been all this time,” I asked him. We were old friends.